This is the second in a recurring series that I will be doing that highlights obscure, unknown, forgotten, and underrated horror movies. My goal is to bring to light some of the great horror movies of the past and present, that doesn’t make it onto people’s radars. You can assume that there will be spoilers included. Enjoy.
When I was young, I was reckless. I don’t mean like the soap opera The Young and the Restless, I mean drinking, getting high, smoking cigarette’s like a fucking cowboy, fighting, driving too fast, playing in a heavy metal band and lighting at least one thing on fire whether on purpose or accidentally per week. You know, the stuff that Bruce Springsteen talked about in his classic Glory Days. But then I met a pretty lady, had kids and the whole mathematics of the situation changed. Now for me personally, this was for the best. Other than simply saving me from a life in dive bars, playing Iron Maiden covers for the rest of my life, having children showed me that there are so many more important things in life. The moments spent with my children are much more fulfilling than doing essentially, anything else.
Now, this isn’t the case for all parents. There are a lot of parents who miss their glory days. They long for their wild Friday nights, some even still participate in those wild nights with a heavy dose of baby sitters. I know of a few parents who see summer vacation as form of punishment. Don’t get me wrong, these are good parents who love their children, but 24/7 for 3 months appears to be burdensome for them. Those types of parents are perfectly represented by Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair in the 2017 (or 2018) underrated and underappreciated horror classic, Mom and Dad. Written and directed by Brian Taylor
Have you ever watched Mom and Dad? No? OMG, let me tell you about it!
How in the hell would you categorize Mom and Dad? The premise is that there is an epidemic of mass hysteria spreading which causes parents to attack and murder their children. Clearly it falls in the same film category as The Crazies, a bit like The Happening, but truly unlike anything else that I have ever seen. As confusing as how to categorize this flick is, is also determining what year it was actually released. It debuted at the Toronto Film Fest in 2017 but was later released in January 2018. Some sites call it a 2018 film, whilst others call it a 2017 film. Either way, this movie does not show up on any 2017 or 2018 best of horror movies list. How the fuck? That is the main reason that I am giving this thing a full write up and treatment to bring the recognition to it that it deserves. This is a Top 5 horror movie for either of those years, and a Top 10 for the decade in general. Overshadowed during its release by the overwhelming popularity of Mandy and slowly being buried under the crushing weight of new content being released at such a fast pace.
The first act starts off with a woman hearing static on her radio who then parks her car on the train tracks with her crying baby inside. She proceeds to exit the vehicle and then slowly, yet calmly walks away. We cut to a 1970s style title card and opening sequence which is done well. The director of this movie also directed Crank, which is probably one of the greatest action movies of the past 25 years and a really refreshing update to a tired genre of shoot-em-up films. There are so many Crank-like aspects to Mom and Dad such as the camera work, the frantic pace, and the music. Overall, this director knows how to convey rage in such a beautiful way that is unparalleled by other directors.
From here, the film set up starts quickly. We have an image that portrays the ideal family in the modern world. We have the mother, longing to be part of her teenage daughter’s life, played by Selma Blair. The aging, but once cool Dad, played by the amazing Nicholas Cage. The smart-ass teen daughter Anne Winters, who most recently starred in 13 Reasons Why. She has an amazing scene near the beginning of the movie, where her mother is trying to talk to her but she’s just scrolling through Instagram rolling her eyes at everything her mother has to say. When I watched this movie originally, I actually called my own teenage daughter out of her room to watch this part as it is an accurate representation of her most mornings driving to school. Finally, there is the son, played by Zackary Author who was in the movie The 5th Wave. Now, the little family breakfast scene that opens the movie is fantastic! It really paints a portrait of the standard American family, including hearing the daughter exclaiming “I’m on my rag anyway” to which the father plugs his ears yelling “lalalalala”. This is so real, this has happened in my house on numerous occasions.
The first act is very frantic. It introduces the family, their maid, the mother, the daughter’s friends, and the boyfriend, but manages to jump straight into slaughter. We cut to the maid smashing her daughter’s head in with a hammer. Then, we have all of the parents rushing the gate of the school to pick up their children, only to murder them by stabbing them with their keys, beating them to death with their bare hands, suffocating them with plastic bags and so on. The daughter and friend manage to get away but are cornered by a crazed mob of parents who strangely just run on by, not harming children that aren’t their own.
During the opening scene of the movie we find out that Aunt Jeanie is pregnant and due any day now. No, no, no, they aren’t going to do a scene where a woman tries to kill her new born baby are they? THIS MOVIE DON’T GIVE A FUCK. Jeanie gives birth, lovingly holding her baby in her arms and then, oh my god, she starts fucking squeezing! They try to get the baby from her, but she grabs a scalpel from the operating table and tries to stab the new born baby! WHAT THE FUCK BRO, THIS MOVIE DON’T GIVE A FUCK. Selma Blair successfully gets the baby away from her sister, but we’re left with the lasting image of the mother getting up off of the hospital bed, blood running down her legs, umbilical cord hanging between her dragging on the ground lurching towards her new born. This whole scene is set to Roxette’s 1992 hit It Must Have Been Love and had my wife saying to me “I don’t know if I like this movie” - That’s how you know it’s good!
The entire second act is set at the family house, with the daughter and her boyfriend, who constantly get fucked up in this movie. You see them arriving to pick up the young brother who was left home with the nanny. The nanny calmly asks them if they want lunch as she mops up her daughter’s blood. Next minute, Nick Cage comes home and goes on the attack. Beating up the boyfriend and chasing the kids into the basement. Selma Blair arrives home and puts a motherly touch to child murder. While Nick Cage is banging on the basement door yelling “YOUR MOTHERFUCKING MOTHER SAYS OPEN THIS FUCKING DOOR MOTHER FUCKERS,” Mom calmly runs natural gas from the stove in the kitchen, out of the house with a garden hose and into a basement window to slowly gas the kids out. This backfires amazingly as the kids feign death, escape through an airduct and booby trap the door with duct tape and matches, which blows Nick Cage into full on crazy mode.
After the explosion we get the amazing third act of this film. The kids having escaped from the basement are now cornered by their mother, armed with a meat tenderizer and their father armed with a Sawzall “Sawzall, it means it saws…. ALL”. All of a sudden, DING DONG goes the doorbell. “Oh Shit, I forgot your parents were coming over for dinner tonight” For a simple film, they do an amazing job of taking a simple 3-minute family breakfast scene to set up the entire movie. It tells you everything that is going to happen from the Aunt being pregnant, to the Grandparents coming over for dinner. But you mostly forget about it until it’s staring you right in the face. Not once will you think whilst watching this movie, “Gee, I wonder when the grandparents are finally going to show up, so we can see that insanity?” It’s a great sleight of hand by a brilliant writer/director.
Nick Cage answers the door, only to be pepper sprayed by his mother and slashed by his Vietnam Veteran father, played by horror legend Lance Henriksen. Queue the insanity as Nicholas Cage starts chasing his son through the house trying to murder him, madly barking like a dog the whole time, whilst his father chases him with a knife trying to gut him like a fish. Selma Blair tries to protect her husband by getting into fisticuffs with the mother in law. There’s a short car chase, a hit and run, and a brief and abrupt stop as the boyfriend awakens from his second bout of unconsciousness to mash the mom in the head and save the day. We end with the parents tied up in the basement telling the kids, “We love you, but sometimes we just want to ….”, as we cut to credits.
Mom and Dad is amazing! It’s a unique premise, an amazing way of filming it, a great soundtrack with enough shocking scenes and a touch of gore that will certainly delight any horror fan. It’s never really explained why these events are happening which I love, I hate when a movie needs to hold your hand. All we know is there is static on radios and TV which maybe causes it. We get a cameo from Dr. Oz who explains it as a natural occurrence like hogs and savaging of piglets. We get a CNN like news panel explaining it as a communist plot. All the backstory and foreshadowing we need is from the family breakfast scene and a Nick Cage flashback of doing donuts in his firebird, listening to heavy metal while a pretty blonde smacks him in the face with her boobs. It’s basically a crazy 80’s movies with zero plot and all action.
This movie is very new, and I apologize for the spoilers but trust me, it doesn’t ruin anything. This needs to be seen to believed, especially Nick Cage barking like a dog chasing his son. Hopefully this article will bring new eyes on this modern cult classic/horror legend and I will start to see it on Top 10 of the 2010’s list as it is certainly on mine. If you have Hulu, Mom and Dad is currently streaming there, in Canada it’s streaming on Netflix, or on your favorite VOD platform, check it out.
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